A probe is under way to establish reasons behind water cuts in Khayelitsha.
This comes as the country prepares for a 21-day lockdown from midnight on Thursday in an attempt to curb Covid-19 coronavirus infections.
The City of Cape Town is instituting the investigation following a statement released by the Al Jama-ah party on Tuesday, claiming that the city had cut off water for a number of residents.
The city’s mayoral committee member for finance, Ian Neilson, said on Wednesday afternoon that the council was looking into the matter.
He said it was unclear at this stage whether there was a lack of water because of supply interruptions or if water pressure was playing a role or if customers had been restricted to a trickle because of municipal debt.
“If it is the debt, water has not been cut off. It is restricted to a trickle after numerous warning letters have been sent to pay water debt and efforts to engage residents on debt management arrangements have not been successful.
“The water is not cut off but the flow is reduced so that people can still use the water for hygiene and drinking,” Neilson said.
This was done to prevent enormous water wastage and also to ensure that the municipality could still carry on functioning to provide services, he said.
“We will investigate ... In general, if water is restricted ... one can wash hands with soap and rinse it with the trickle. The city ceased new restrictions on Friday for those in arrears with their municipal accounts and facing debt management action.
“Customers are asked to contact a city cash office to make arrangements for reconnection. There is no need to protest.”
Neilson was responding to City Press questions after Ayesha Allie-Patel, spokesperson of Al Jama-ah, said the residents had embarked on a protest to demand that the city reconnect their water supply, a basic need.
The party said it was outraged about the cuts to several homes in Khayelitsha.
Residents had been without water for the past two weeks and had no other sources of supply
Ganief Hendricks, the leader of Al Jama-ah in Parliament, has asked DA interim leader John Steenhuisen, speaker Dirk Smit and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to intervene.
The party said residents had been without water for the past two weeks and had no other sources of supply.
It said the city previously stated that it had suspended all water disconnections, but there had been continual water cuts in the area.
Qaba Mbola, a father of three children and a resident of the Harare section in Khayelitsha, has been living without water for the past two weeks.
He said he owed the City of Cape Town more than R3 000 but he was unemployed.
The water supply had been cut even though he had indicated that he had no means to pay the debt.
Monday will be my third week without water. Neighbours have been helping us with water to wash hands, bath, cook and wash clothes. Right now, in the heat of the coronavirus, we don’t have water
Qaba Mbola, a father of three children and a resident in Khayelitsha
“When I arrived home from a hustle [two weeks ago] to try to put bread on the table, city employees had stopped my water and, when I went to their office, they said I must come with proof of unemployment by writing an affidavit and providing a copy of my bank statement.
“They said I had to go to the labour department to get proof that I’m unemployed. How can I do all these things when I need to put food on the table?
“Monday will be my third week without water. Neighbours have been helping us with water to wash hands, bath, cook and wash clothes. Right now, in the heat of the coronavirus, we don’t have water. We are in a desperate condition. There is no hope.”
Mbola said that, despite the city promising to reconnect the water during the residents’ protest on Friday last week, this had not happened.
Al Jama-ah had called on the DA-run City of Cape Town to act responsibly and to assist poor communities to help fight against the spread of Covid-19.
“We are faced with a coronavirus pandemic and it is insensitive and irresponsible of the city to leave people without water. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has warned the nation of the rapid spread of the virus. The poor and black working class will be most affected ... Is the DA-run City of Cape Town not aware that within the poor communities there are high rates of TB [tuberculosis] and HIV, putting them more at risk of contracting the virus?”
Al Jama-ah said: “The poor and black working class live in overcrowded conditions, have high unemployment and crime rates. It is impractical for those living in small and overcrowded homes to practise self-isolation and social-distancing. The poor communities and aged are the most vulnerable and it is the responsibility of state organs to ensure that communities have the basic necessities, such as a clean water supply.
“We remind the city that our Constitution states: ‘Everyone has the right to live in a clean and protected environment.’”